acceptability · analysis? · behaviour · India · learning · questions

Accents & English

Recently, I was chided when I did not talk “Inglish” to a white person. I wonder if such people know how Indians are perceived by most of the other parts of the world.

This post by AP Lawrence is a classic example. As an Indian I am offended by the “No India” option but at the same time, I wonder if people working in the customer service industry can put in a little more effort.

In fact, here I must pen in my experience with CS here. I was phonebanking. I clearly chose English as my choice of language. The customer support officer could not understand a word of what I said and distinctly had spoke english with tones of tamil… eg., “transfera?!” She could not understand simple banking terms.

Another time, I called some one in the US. Spoke in English the whole while, and he in the end had to send me some documents over for me to look at and sign up. He asks me if I knew English! I responded saying I did and was wondering what I was communicating in so far?!? May be he was wondering if I knew how to read! Benefit of doubt πŸ˜€

I know many take pride in talking “Inglish” but if we as a country want more business as outsourcing points, at least those sectors must get themselves trained in English. I suppose they are; but old habits die hard right?

Anyways, why do I let go off “Inglish” is simply because I was tired of repeating when others say pardon, excuse me… Good if I can get the other person to understand in the first go, right? To me the key to any language is communication. If one could get the other one to understand without accents – well and good!Β  Though I wonder if it is possible over the telephone, where accents get accentuated. Sign language works too πŸ˜‰Β  Again not possible over the phone unless you are video conferencing πŸ˜€

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18 thoughts on “Accents & English

  1. I know! I have had even weirder experinces of true blood ‘English’ people who speak the most undeciperable dialects like cockney and its so much more difficult to understand πŸ™‚

    Tell me about it!!! πŸ™‚

  2. “To me the key to any language is communication.” Is what I also agree with.

    True…why else did language come about for?!?

  3. Accents can make it hard to understand people. Before, I worked with mostly english people all the time. When I started doing what I do now, I meet people from all over. I tell you, at first, I just could not understand some people, even though they were speaking english. The accent was so thick. I am so used to different accents now, I have no problem. But at first, I was the one always asking them to repeat. I felt like an idiot because everyone else had no problems understanding.

    I think it is just something you get used to. I had never been around so many different people from so many places before.

    I just had to take the time to ‘really listen’

    I guess really listening would reduce a lot of mis-communication on various levels πŸ™‚ Simple solution to many a problem. All of us are guilty of not listening. πŸ™‚ Well, I was on the other side and felt like an idiot when I had to repeat, wondering if I was so off the right way. Then realised there really is no right way! πŸ˜€

  4. Hey Apar, totallllly with you, dear. Chiding you was way out of line.

    In the US, the (current) natives’ brains seemed to grind to a halt when they heard a different accent. When I spoke to a colleague about another colleague called Tom (pronouncing it as we would – ‘o’ like the ‘au’ in auction), the person just didn’t understand who I was talking about. When I spelt the name out, he went “Ah! You mean Taaam!”. Honestly, how difficult can it be!

    At the airline counter in Cincinatti, when I said I was heading for Boston, the girl just stared for a while and said, “Parlez-vous franΓ§ais?”! Such occurrences kept happening until I put on, what is derisively known in India as, ‘an accent’.

    People on this side of the Atlantic are much, mucchh, mucccchhhh better, I can assure you. Of course, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, and such accents are frowned upon. The erudite, Amitabh Bachchan accent is absolutely acceptable.

    Oh yeah!! I remember you told me about the “Parlez-vous franΓ§ais?” Amitabh Bachchan accent? What is that?!

  5. Its true to some extent..but having worked in call center I would not agree totally bcoz there are so many agents who give in 200% to make sure they don’t sound alien.I had colleagues who sounded more american than george bush πŸ˜€ .. The worst part is americans dont have an uniform accent. Our client was from mid weat and we had japs, afro americans, chinese n arabs calling in. If we try our perceived american accent with them they wont understand a thing..so its a tough job being a CS only after speaking for a minute or so we know wat the client understands and then need to adapt run time.

    Also another issue came to my mind. During a cricket match indian commentator chetan sharma[or was it chauhan] blurted out something like “the batters had done well” instead of batsmen. The next day the Indian media took him to dryers. But surprise surprise ..after a few months when south african commentators used the word it was considered their slang and they were appreciated for coining an unique term. So I guess lot of things with accent depends on the race πŸ™‚

  6. You know I have clients in the US, right? I dont fake my accent at all, I speak to them as normally as how I speak to you guys. So far, I havent heard anyone saying ” We have a hard time understanding you” yet. Probably, the americans are getting accustomed to the Indian way of speaking Engleeeesh πŸ˜‰

  7. Really it does not bother me at all as far as language serves the purpose of communication. I have been at both ends. World is a global village now and everbody has something to do with other parts of the world and therefore accents are bound come in play. We always joke that my work place is a true global village, we have orgins from india, china, russia, south america…and once our new CEO came on board (an american) asked us in the first townhall meeting ‘any born canadians?’ just few hands went up and burst of laughter. when I am on holiday in india, people say i talk like american..man!
    true to the spirit of the language as to communicate, now you know Apar, why my blog has typos and stuff..well i know that is taking the spirit to all new levels..hahha
    hope you are doing well!

  8. Who chided you? I’m unclear about why that was not considered proper. I have spent my life in the US and there are people right here from Boston, let’s say, or the south, that I have to really concentrate to understand.
    Like it or not, English is rapidly becoming the universal business language, so all we can do is try to be kind, listen carefully, and speak carefully.
    I agree with a few people, the more you get used to hearing people with various accents, the easier it becomes. πŸ™‚

  9. Apar-

    Reading your blog after a long time……it was so wrong to chide you. English is spoken in different accents all over the world and even within the US there are so many accents- Bostonian, Southern accent, drawl etc. Listening to more people talk and talking back helps to strengthen the accent.

  10. This is such a frustrating problem and I can see why someone would get upset to call a line for help when they are already upset about something not working and then not be able to understand someone who is supposed to be able to help them. I don’t know the best solution but I do know that people need to have more patience with each other. And Mitr_bayarea is right on that even in the U.S. there are so many different accents. Perhaps speaking slower and making sure to clearly enunciate are necessary but I think patience is needed on both sides as well.

  11. So true! Brit clients understand ‘Inglish’ better that US clients. They are the ones who make a lot of fuss. But since our conferences are all video conferences we always have our hands to do the talking πŸ™‚

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